Nicolae Gheorghi had a message for us on Roma Rights

One of the foremost defenders of Roma Rights was Nicolae Gheorghi from Romania who sadly passed away in 2013. In memory of his remarkable contributions the European Roma Rights Center has now published a series of articles on his analyses, messages and efforts. The following was my own piece.

“He came with a broom in his hand”

I had invited Nicolae Gheorghi to a meeting of European Human Rights Defenders in Sarajevo. As Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe I had taken the liberty to convene meetings of activists who could give good advice and set the tone for our common struggle for human rights on the continent. Nicolae was an obvious invitee, not only because of his straight and often humoristic interventions – he had a message.

At that time he was no longer with the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw. He had moved back to his Romania and joined civil society as an activist again. Entering the Sarajevo conference room he waived the broom in the air explaining that he and his colleagues had now concluded that their patience had run out. The time had come to sweep the corrupt decision takers out of power once and for all. The broom was the symbol for this determination.

Nicolae shared with many other activists a very deep commitment to the human rights cause. This was combined with other characteristics which made him unique: intellectual rigor, scrutinizing honesty and an openness to change opinion on the basis of experience. He became the sharpest critic of hypocrisy among both Roma and gadje. He told the truth even when inconvenient.

He exposed the symbiotic relationship developing between gadje Roma ‘experts’ and Roma leaders which tended to perpetuate the atmosphere of Roma victimhood. “The role of Roma opinion-makers”, he wrote, “is to suggest new approaches, focusing on integration rather than being victims”.

He stressed that misbehavior by Roma individuals should not be excused with a reference to the long history of repression. Criticism against someone’s criminal activities must be taken seriously and not just be dismissed as anti-Gypsyism.

Such statements – including Nicolae’s writings about ‘cunning’ (shmekeria) and early marriages – could hardly have been made by any gadjo without causing misunderstandings. Indeed, the approach taken by myself and many of my gadje colleagues is that raising such “taboo” issues must be left to insiders. We decided not to give the anti-Roma propaganda any further ammunition. We have also felt that these social issues were indeed to a large extent the consequence of enforced misery and marginalization.

Knowing that Nicolae did take up these issues was a relief and of course the best answer to those who used these negative social phenomena in their racist hate speech.

While defining and pointing at such problems, Nicolae also gave positive inspiration to the Roma rights cause. Many of his messages could be summarized with the slogan “Yes, we can”. Real change must come from ourselves, he repeated.

Of course, he was deeply aware of the divisions among the Roma people but he believed it would be possible to unite the various groups into one cultural nation. “The common aim of the Roma movement”, he once wrote, “should be the organization, mobilization and eventual remobilization of Roma, based on pursuing the struggle against racism and discrimination”.

Nicolae was in a sense a bridge between Roma communities and the broader international community, underpinned by his impressive academic and language skills. He was one of the initiators behind the International Roma Contact Group, a short lived but important organization in the very first years of this millenium. Its main achievement was to initiate – with the support of the government of Finland – the creation of the European Roma and Traveller Forum (ERTF) under the auspices of Council of Europe.

Nicolae followed the developments of the Forum even after having resigned from it. In his late writings he felt that it was still too early to evaluate its merits but that it would be wise to continue to maintain friendly relation in supporting the organization “while retaining our critical faculties”. He wrote that ERTF should move beyond its cluster mentality and do more to set standards and create precedents for national Roma organisations so that it would strengthen its position as a role model. It should seek answers to such crucial questions as assimilation, integration and cultural separation.

In conclusion he wrote:

“As a former club member I now appear a heretic for challenging prevailing orthodoxy by suggesting a more genuine, credible and legitimate type of Roma representation. This is the form my activism takes nowadays – by reinventing myself and working at national level in Romania but drawing on my familiarity with European structures and developments over the past years in the belief that the ERTF can be a key factor in the development of Roma culture as a European level”.

It was a great loss that this man were not given more time to pursue the work for his vision about a European Roma cultural nation of united communities, integrated in the broader societies and having their rights and culture recognized and respected.

EU Parliament adopts important resolution on Roma rights – next is implementation

The European Parliament has with broad majority adopted a resolution proposed by Swedish MEP Soraya Post on Roma rights in Europe.

The text:

The European Parliament,

•having regard to the preamble of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), notably its second and its fourth to seventh indents,

•having regard to, amongst others, Article 2, Article 3, paragraph 3, second indent, and Articles 6 and 7 TEU,

•having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 7 December 2000 (‘the Charter’), proclaimed on 12 December 2007 in Strasbourg, which entered into force with the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009,

•having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 9 March 2011 on the EU strategy on Roma inclusion and the Communication from the Commission on An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020  (COM 2011(0173)), the Commission Report on the ‘implementation of the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies’ (COM (2014)0209), and to the Council recommendation of 9 December 2013 on ‘Effective Roma integration measures in the Member States’,

•having regard to the outcomes of the 2011 Roma Pilot Survey conducted by the Agency for Fundamental Rights,

•having regard to the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,

•having regard to the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the Rise of Anti-Gypsyism and racist violence against Roma in Europe adopted on 1 February 2012,

•having regard to the General Policy Recommendation N°13 of the European Commission against Racism and Xenophobia (ECRI) on combating anti-Gypsyism and discrimination against Roma,

•having regard to the comprehensive Action Plan, adopted by OSCE participating States, including EU Member States and candidate countries, focusing on improving the situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE area, in which the States undertake inter alia to reinforce their efforts to ensure that Roma and Sinti people are able to play a full and equal part in our societies, and to eradicate discrimination against them,

•having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.Whereas Roma, with an estimated population of 10 – 12 million in Europe, are the largest ethnic minority in Europe;

B.Whereas the word ‘Roma’ is used in this resolution as an umbrella term which includes different related groups throughout Europe, whether sedentary or not, such as Roma, Travellers, Sinti, Manouches, Kalés, Romanichels, Boyash, Ashkalis, Égyptiens, Yéniches, Doms, Loms that can be diverse in culture and lifestyles;

C.Whereas anti-Gypsyism, the special kind of racism that is directed towards Roma, is an ideology founded on racial superiority, a form of dehumanisation and institutional racism nurtured by historical discrimination, which is expressed, among others, by violence, hate speech, exploitation, stigmatisation and the most blatant kind of discrimination;

D.Whereas anti Gypsyism is one of the main causes of discrimination and marginalisation that the Roma people have suffered historically in many European countries;

E.Whereas many Roma still live under overwhelmingly poor conditions and face extreme levels of social exclusion and discrimination;

F.Whereas the situation of the European Roma, having historically been part of society in many European countries without a single kin-State and having contributed to it as its citizens, is distinct among national minorities in Europe which justifies specific measures at European level; and whereas Roma are part of Europe’s culture and European values;

G.Whereas Roma women are often exposed to multiple and intersectional discrimination on grounds of gender and ethnic origin and have limited access to employment, education, health, social services and decision-making; whereas discrimination can occur within the mainstream society in a context of growing anti-Roma racism, but also within their communities by reason of their sex;

H.Whereas the 2011 Commission’s Communication on An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies called on Member States to adopt or further develop a comprehensive approach to Roma integration and endorse a number of common goals; and whereas Council recommendation of 9 December 2013 invites Member States to take effective policy measures to ensure equal treatment of Roma people and the respect of their fundamental rights, including equal access to education, employment, healthcare and housing;

I.Whereas the date of 27 January, the day of liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp has been designated by the United Nations as the International Holocaust Memorial Day;

J.Whereas according to estimates, at least 500, 000 Roma were exterminated during World War II by the Nazi and other regimes and their allies, and that in some countries, more than 80 % of the Roma population were exterminated; Reminds that at least 23 000 Roma were gassed to death in the Zigeunerlager (Gypsy camp) of Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War II. In one night, from 2 to 3 August 1944, 2 897 Roma, mostly women, children and elderly people, were killed in this camp. Therefore, 2 August has been chosen by Roma organisations, as the day to commemorate all Roma victims of this genocide;

K.Whereas the genocide of Roma by the Nazi and other regimes and their allies during World War II is a fact that is still largely ignored and is therefore, not acknowledged by the broad public and often not recognised or taught in schools, making Roma people part of the “ignored” victims of the genocide during World War II;

L.Whereas commemorating crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights is crucial in order to pursue the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe; and whereas the genocide of the Roma in Europe deserves full recognition commensurate with the gravity of crimes by Nazi and other regimes designed to physically eliminate the Roma of Europe as well as Jews and other targeted groups;

M.Whereas recognising and commemorating the genocide of Roma during World War II it is important to provide the Roma people with restitution where appropriate for the atrocities that were committed towards them by the Nazi and other regimes and their allies during World War II;

N.Whereas the recognition of the genocide of Roma during World War II and the establishment of a dedicated European Memorial Day would thus constitute an important symbolic step in the fight against anti-Gypsyism and contribute towards the general knowledge of Roma history in Europe;

1.Expresses its deep concern over the rise of anti-Gypsyism manifested inter alia through anti-Roma rhetoric and violent attacks, including murders, against Roma in Europe, which are incompatible with the norms and values of the European Union and constitute a major obstacle to the successful social integration of Roma and full respect for their human rights;

2.Underlines that discrimination and marginalisation is never caused by an inert weakness of an individual or a group that suffers such discrimination and marginalisation but mainly by the failure of the mainstream society to recognise the rights of individuals and the failure to provide the necessary structures for individuals to invoke these rights;

3.Calls on the Member States to implement effectively the Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin in order to prevent and eliminate discrimination against Roma, in particular in employment, education and access to housing;

4.Calls on the need to combat anti-Gypsyism at every level and by every means and stresses that this phenomenon is an especially persistent, violent, recurrent and commonplace form of racism; Calls on Member States to further strengthen the fight against anti-Gypsyism as part of their National Roma Integration Strategies promoting best practices;

5.Welcomes the involvement of the Roma communities and NGOs in the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies, and calls for their further involvement in the design, monitoring, evaluation and implementation of the NRIS;

6.Ensure that specific measures for women’s rights and gender mainstreaming are included in the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS), and that assessment and annual monitoring take into account a women’s rights and gender equality perspective in each section of the National Roma Integration Strategies;

7.Calls on the Member States and the Commission to consider children as a priority when implementing the EU Framework for National Roma strategies, reiterates the importance of promoting equal access to housing, healthcare, education and dignified living conditions for Roma children;

8.Calls on the Member States to implement effectively the Council Framework Decision 2008 / 913 / JHA of 28 November 2008 on combatting certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law in order to combat successfully anti-Gypsyism, anti Roma rhetoric and violent attacks against Roma, as well as condoning, denial and gross trivialisation of the genocide against Roma;

9.Recalls that Roma are part of Europe’s culture and shared values and therefore encourages Member State and other European countries to address the history of Roma people through dialogue with citizens and young people, in particular the genocide of Roma during World War II;

10.Condemns utterly and without equivocation all forms of racism and discrimination faced by the Roma and underlines the fact that anti-Gypsyism must be effectively addressed in order for measures in other fields to be effective;

11.Calls in this regard on the Commission to effectively monitor and assess Member States compliance with the fundamental values of the EU; calls on the Commission to ensure that fundamental rights, democracy and rules of law are respected in all Member States, to effectively monitor and assess Members States’ compliance with these values, and to ensure that the Commission responds to any systemic breaches which may occur;

12.Recognises therefore solemnly the historical fact of the genocide of Roma that took place during World War II;

13.Calls on Member States to officially recognise this genocide and other forms of persecution against Roma such as deportation and internment that took place during World War II;

14.Declares that a European day should be dedicated to commemorate the victims of the genocide of the Roma during World War II and that this day should be called the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day;

15.Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and the parliaments of the Member States and the candidate countries, the Council of Europe and the OSCE and the United Nations.

Protection of Roma rights in Sweden and Europe – progress and failures

I was interviewed by Bernard Rorke for the blog of European Roma Rights Centre, headquartered in Budapest. Below are the questions and my answers.

1. When you published the report ‘Human rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe’ back in 2012, you hoped it would encourage constructive discussion on what must be done to put an end to discrimination and marginalisation. How do you see the situation two years later?

– Sadly, the trend is negative. The Roma population has been disproportionally affected by the economic crisis and the austerity policies. The growth of organized nationalistic and xenophobic political parties has caused severe set-backs. Roma communities have been targeted by extremists in several European countries. EU programs for Roma rights have not been effective.

2. One of your striking recommendations to combat anti-Gypsyism was that truth commissions be established in a number of European countries to put on record the history of mass atrocities against Roma people. Does the Swedish White Paper provide a practical example of how this might be done? Could you tell us a little about that, and about any good practices that emerged from the process?

– The Swedish White Paper, which covered the situation of Roma throughout the 20th century, exposed a shameful history of systematic discrimination based on racial prejudices. For years the official intention was to make life for the Roma population so unpleasant that they would prefer to leave the country. Not least children and their schooling were victims of this policy.
– Roma people in Sweden welcomed this report. At long last there was an official recognition of the persecution.
– This government paper is factual and relevant but it would in my opinion have been more appropriate have it prepared by an independent commission (even if the government had an advisory group of some Roma representatives).
– Lessons: 1) Very important that a procedure is set up to disclose and present the true history of how the Roma people have been treated; 2) This work should be impartial and with direct participation of Roma representatives; 3) There should be a follow-up on the facts presented – in schools and to the broader public through education materials, exhibitions and other information techniques; 4) When relevant, victims should be able to claim compensation.

3. In a recent blog you mentioned that following a study visit to Romania, you were deeply saddened by the continued misery among Roma communities. What were the particular situations that struck you on that visit?

– Most Roma in Romania live in deep poverty. In practice the social rights of many are denied, for instance regarding housing, education, health care and employment. There are of others in the country who are extremely poor, but the Roma are overrepresented among those in misery. The main reason is anti-gypsyism and marginalization. The poisonous prejudices against this minority is widespread in the country and too little is done to counter this mentality.

4. You spoke of feeling encouraged after having met “some officials both locally and in government circles who are prepared to contribute to sustainable solutions.” The Decade of Roma Inclusion is nearly over, and civil society and the European Commission’s basically agree that the current Romanian National Roma Integration Strategy is dismal. Do you have any hope that the Romanian authorities can come up with sustainable solutions proportionate to the problems of exclusion by 2020?

– Yes, I met also some officials who genuinely realize that something energetic must be done to break the vicious cycle and to protect and promote Roma rights. We outsiders should avoid painting all decision-makers in Romania in negative colors, this does not help.

5. What do you think of recent developments in France: incidents of anti-Roma violence, ever more harsh official rhetoric, mass evictions, and plans to use anti-terrorist measures as a cover to expel ‘undesirable’ EU citizens?

– When I was Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights the French government tried to have me dismissed after I had voiced criticism against its policy towards visiting Roma people from Romania and Bulgaria. That failed but the policy of evictions and expulsions have continued. The reports I have now received from France on this issue are deeply worrying.

6. What to do about anti-Roma hate speech online and offline? As you say, proper self-regulation has proven to be wanting in several countries. But how do we balance concerns about freedom of expression and protection against the kind of speech which amounts to incitement to hatred?

– True, this balance is the issue. Freedom of expression is very cardinal and must be protected. But this freedom is not unlimited, which is also recognized in the European Convention on Human Rights. Speech which incites to violence should never be allowed. When such violence targets minorities it is particularly important that there is a clear response from the justice system. My feeling is that the law enforcement structures not always take hate speech against Roma with the necessary seriousness. Some brutal hate crimes – for instance in Czech Republic and Hungary – have happened after a period of anti-Roma hate speeches.

7. You stated that the coordination on human rights between the Council of Europe and the EU has not worked well in spite of declarations on “European values” which have been strikingly similar. Could you tell us more about this?

– In the field of human rights there are a number of regional and international governmental actors. So also in relation to Roma rights in Europe which is, at least partly, covered by Council of Europe, EU, OSCE and branches of the United Nations. A considerable dynamics could be mobilized through coordination between these bodies. Having worked on the inside, I had to notice that this opportunity was often missed. This is a pity as all of them have limited resources.
– However, I think it is fair to say that a bigger problem is the lack of implementation of the governments in the member states on agreements they have once reached in defense of their citizens.

8. You wrote that “the original financial crisis turned into a broader economic crisis which in turn ended up in a political crisis – and a crisis of basic values.” What basic values are in crisis, and what do you think are the consequences of this crisis for European societies?

– The growth of authoritarian and xenophobic forces is a symptom of the crisis. Even more serious is that larger political parties too often strike deals with such groups or coopt their proposals. Such compromises may in the longer run undermine the very basis of our democracies. What is at stake are basic human rights for everyone in society and respect for those who are different from the majority or mainstream.
– The political rhetoric has been brutalized: the poor have themselves to blame; the unemployed are lazy and have not tried enough; the beggers should return instead of pestering us; if the immigrants do not like it here, they could go home; the minorities should accept our culture if they want to stay: we do not multiculturalism; etcetera.
– The intolerant and extreme nationalists are creating divisions while we need to build bridges. If they are able to gain more support our societies will change character – not to the better.

9. You have often stressed the importance of non-governmental groups and civil society initiatives as a counter-balance to authoritarian and xenophobic trends. Following Prime Minister Orban’s declaration of intent to build an illiberal democracy, how do you view the recent actions taken by the Hungarian Government against NGOs?

– Ever since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted non-governmental groups have played an absolutely crucial role in both protecting and promoting human rights. This is now endangered by imposed restrictions on these groups in a number of countries. They are forced to go through licensing procedures and made subject to harassments by fiscal police and other authorities. Government-controlled media launch negative campaigns against those who dares to voice criticism. This is serious.

10. You have been a driving force and for many an inspiration for many years as regards the rights of the child. In Poland, 2012 was the year of Janusz Korczak: 70 years after his execution by the Nazis and 100 years after he started working in an orphanage in Warsaw, you wrote that some of his ideas are still not fully understood and they are absolutely relevant in the work for children’s rights today. What needs to be understood better, and how much remains to be done to safeguard the fundamental rights of the child across Europe?

– The writings of Janusz Korczak define what the rights of the child are really about. We adults ought to see the child as an individual with rights now, not only after having grown up. We should learn to listen to children and never meet their views and actions with any form of violence. One key word is respect. As a small example, Korczak asked us never spy into the diary of a child, she has the right to keep her secrets for herself. That deeper understanding is still missing among many of us.

Action Plans for Roma and Sinti must be implemented

Roma and Sinti people are still suffering systematic discrimination in large parts of Europe. They are denied basic human rights and victims of flagrant racism. As a consequence, they remain far behind others in society in terms of educational attainment, employment, housing and health standards. They have no proportional representation in public and political life.

In social terms they tend to be marginalised. Indeed, a number of them are stateless or do not even have documents to prove their identity. When attempting to migrate they are discriminated against and often refused entry or expelled. Their exclusion from society feeds isolationism among the Roma and Sinti communities which in turn encourages prejudice against them among xenophobes. More effort is needed to break this vicious cycle.

This is an enormous challenge.

Xenophobic and extreme nationalistic tendencies in today’s Europe have worsened the situation for the Roma and Sinti people. They are not seldom targeted in hate propaganda by neo-fascists and other extremists; they have suffered brutal hate crimes which have not even spared children. Many assaults are not reported to the law enforcement due to lack of trust in the police.

The problems are not new and have been on the agenda of OSCE and several other international bodies for a number of years. But conferences, drafting of plans and other investments of time and money have produced little results. Inequalities seem only to increase. Frustration is widespread, not least among the Roma and Sinti themselves.

OSCE:s Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE Area was adopted already 2003. Five years later its implementation was formally evaluated. Though some progress was noted – not least the fact that Member States had adopted action plans for integration of these minorities and that anti-discrimination legislation had been adopted – the overwhelming picture was that the concrete situation for Roma and Sinti had not really improved.

Among the problems highlighted in this evaluation report 2008 were continued forced evictions; lack of secure land tenure; inadequate alternative housing; lack of civil and voter registration; and inability of Roma and Sinti children to attend school.

Agreed plans had had little influence on local authorities. On that level they were received with apathy and neglect. Generally, there was a lack of institutional mechanisms for sustainable progress. Said the implementation report then.

Another six years have passed; my clear impression is that these problems, and others, remain.

There should no longer be any confusion on what ought to be done. The analysis of the key obstacles is clear. The tools available to tackle the injustices are identified.

For instance, we know that education is absolutely crucial in order to break the vicious cycle. We also know that pre-schooling is a way to prepare for successful learning and avoiding drop-outs and other school failures.

We have decided that the automatic placement of Roma children in special, separate classes is wrong and should be stopped. We know that it is important for the poor minority children that they can have free breakfast or lunch in school. We have understood the value of school mediators or personnel with minority background involved in the school system. We sense the need for further scholarships to allow poor pupils to continue their education.

We know also the chain effects. If a child does not receive sufficient schooling she or he will be disadvantaged in the job market. If they cannot get a job they cannot improve their housing situation. Poor housing conditions in turn affect one’s health and also the education of the next generation of children.

Consequently we have also understood the importance of adult education as well; too many parents cannot read and write.

We do understand the crucial importance of decent housing standards. A great number of Roma and Sinti live in unhealthy, slum-like environments – in many cases without electricity, water and acceptable sanitation. Their tenure rights are in many cases questioned and evictions continue without alternatives having been offered. This is another vicious cycle.

The same goes for the health care situation. We know that the expected life length of people of this minority is considerably shorter than for the majority population. We understand that this is because of illnesses and diseases which have not been cured. Roma and Sinti are disadvantaged in the health service – they cannot pay under the table; they may not have an ID to prove that they have the right to access; they may fear a hostile reception when knocking at the hospital door.

We must also have understood that Roma and Sinti have become losers on the job market. Several of their traditional jobs have disappeared and they have difficulties to compete in the neoliberal economy. Poor education is of course a disadvantage, but even educated Roma and Sinti have had difficulties to get employed. Obviously, the reason is antiziganism.

We have also learned that there is a need of a comprehensive approach to address the combined problems of poor education, bad housing, lacking health care and unemployment. Also, that there is in all this a gender aspect – that it is greatly important that schooling and health care also reaches girls and that Roma and Sinti women have a voice in the broader society as well.

If we have grasped the genuine problems, identified the remedies and put them into strategies and action plans – why is there so little progress? What is blocking the implementation?

My conclusion is that it is the attitude of the majority population which is the key obstacle. Prejudices against this minority are deep and widespread in Europe. Even politicians are heard promoting slander against this minority, not least in periods of elections. Social gaps and injustices are a consequence of antiziganism. This has to be a major aspect of all strategies and action plans.

What can be done to ensure to change the attitudes, to combat stereotyped prejudices against Roma and Sinti people?

One aspect is to make known the Roma-Sinti history and culture. In Sweden a White Paper was recently published about the treatment of Roma during the last century: enforced sterilisation, registration on ethnicity grounds, evictions, obstacles to schooling and employment, etcetera.

The knowledge about this dark history will now be widely disseminated and also part of the curricula in schools.

Furthermore, the government has appointed a commission to combat antiziganism in the society today. The nine members of this commission have already recognised that Sweden is not free from ugly racism against members of this minority – and have already received striking examples of every-day discrimination. It intends to take action against such incidents of every-day discrimination.

The media are certainly extremely important in this context. Media could be helpful in giving information of real situations but could also spread stereotyped images of minority individuals, for instance linking crimes to Roma. Proper self—regulation has turned out to be wanting in several countries in this regard.

Another important aspect relates to the law enforcement institutions. The 2008 evaluation of the OSCE action plan highlighted the work of the police in this field. It warned against racial profiling and abusive treatment of Roma-Sinti cases. Our experience is that it is particularly important that the policemen are well educated about minority rights. The Swedish commission has already had reason to react against ethnic registration and profiling approaches.

One key phrase in the OSCE action plan was “For Roma with Roma”. That approach is necessary if results are to be reached. Authorities must work together with Roma groups who know what ought to be done – and naturally dislike gadje lecturing by so-called Roma experts. There are nongovernmental organisations with Roma representatives which too often are ignored by the authorities.

Having just returned from a study visit to Romania I feel deeply sad about the continued misery among many Roma communities there but at the same time encouraged after having met some officials both locally and in government circles who are prepared to contribute to sustainable solutions – with creativity and resources.

Implementation must now be the key. Strategy papers and action plans must be turned into real changes and reforms. The 2008 evaluation report stated that many strategies are implemented “in an ad hoc, symbolic manner with little hope of long term sustainability”.

The time for symbolism should be over. Political will for genuine implementation must now be mobilised. This is an urgent matter of human rights. But also necessary in order to protect harmony in our societies.

We cannot allow antiziganism to continue.

[This text is based on a presentation at the OECE-ODIHR conference in Warsaw 30 September 2014]